Time is as always Political

As usual, the switch to DST this past weekend in the U.S. has brought out strong opinions for and against. The time of day and the day of the year have been contested for centuries, whether we are worried about a leap second or moving the date of Easter. In honor of all the people who get worked up over this issue, I offer these two early-modern efforts to deal with the various time-telling conventions used in the Holy Roman Empire.

Each horoscopion was created by Johannes Stabius, imperial historian and court mathematician at the Holy Roman Court, in the early 1510s. He made this first one for Emperor Maximilian I:

A universal horoscopion created for Emperor Maximilian.
A universal horoscopion created for Emperor Maximilian.

Stabius made this second for another imperial bureaucrat, Jacob Bannisius:

Another universal horoscopion used to tell time in different cities in the Holy Roman Empire.
Another universal horoscopion used to tell time in different cities in the Holy Roman Empire.

Our smartphones and powerful computers aren’t going to solve the problem of time because the problem isn’t a technical one. To the extent that there’s a problem, it is and always has been a disagreement over politics, economics, and convention (see, for example, debates in Indiana or the story in Arizona).